I stumbled across something interesting during my exhibit research at NYPL this week. I am working with the Eugenia Hughes collection, which has material relating to Greenwich Village in (roughly) the 1930s-1950s. In sifting through diaries, yearbooks and scrapbooks from Hughes and her family members I came to a few tiny books-A Christmas Carol, Fifty Best Poems of England- and then one, small and reddish, titled The Sidewalks of New York City. This little book (it really is little-its only about 3 x 4!) had chapters on all parts of the city, giving a brief history of the area, a basic map and a little commentary it was essentially a guidebook.
The book, published in 1923 and written by Bernardine Kielty, had a section -of course- on Greenwich Village. Kielty calls the village “probably the section of the city most anticipated. It has come to connote Bohemia, New York’s Latin Quarter, with cellars full of wild eating places; attics full of artists; Batik shops and radical book store; long haired men and determined-eyed women.” Surprisingly, for such a small book, it has a good amount more to say about the Village; calling it both the most sought after residential area and the symbol of New York’s art scene.
As fascinating as this little book was for its 1923 commentary on New York City’s neighborhoods, it was equally as interesting as an object. The title page and back cover revealed that this book was made for and given “compliments of Bowman Hotels”, published by the Little Leather Library Corporation. Further digging showed that there was a series of “Little Leather Library” books, many of which were popular stories or plays; and that at least two universities had collections of them in their archives/special collections: Bowling Green State University’s Browne Popular Culture Library and California Polytechnic State University’s Robert F. Kennedy Library.
This little book really inspired a lot of fascination and following its story led me to the Bowman Hotels, the history of the Little Leather Books Corporation among other things. The ‘story’ of the book is really fascinating but what is really of interest is to get this view–through a promotional guidebook of 1920s Greenwich Village.
Kielty, Bernardine. The Sidewalks of New York. New York: The Little Leather Library Corporation, 1923.